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Publication Date: 2014-04-09

Inspiration

A Great Bath in Paris

I visit this Bath every time I am in Paris. The renovations and additions to her newly purchased house on the very fashionable Faubourg St. Honor was designed for Madame Jeanne Lanvin in 1924 by Armand Rateau, one of the fashion assistants in her atelier. These images are part of a suite that includes not only the bathroom but also an adjacent boudoir that is on permanent display at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. As a friend of mine put perfectly, “it is a bit of a hike to find this hidden gem, but well worth the effort.”

The clothing designed by Mme Lanvin was embellished with beautiful details and trimmings. This same attention to detail is apparent in this glorious bath created on the top floor of the new wing in the house with a terrace on the roof. Mme Lanvin personally selected the prized and expensive materials, which were laid out in a most exceptional design. The most stunning element is the bathtub made of hauteville marble, a very hard French stone that has been quarried since 1840. It was carved out of a yellow ochre monolithic block and very carefully polished.

Across from the bathtub is a sculpted pedestal sink with a thick ledge. The pedestal itself has significant scale and it is enriched with diamond shaped pieces at the base. It was intended to be reminiscent of a fountain.

This is a bath where the bathtub and sink play a major role, however the floor stands up to the strength of the sculpted functional objects. You can see in the photographs the wide black stone band bordered with white lines. A reverse triangular motif is the central element of a small carpet bordered with smaller scale checks. The pattern is magnified by the ample use of mirrors.

As described in the book Decoration and Couture, Rateau uses the volume of the room with “magnificently orchestrated alcoves and projections” for decorative objects and storage as an integral part of the abstract space. Lighting is used only in selective areas: above the pedestal framing the double-sided pivotal mirror with bare bulbs inside of a bronze flower. The faucets, which are made of castings of imaginary birds, flowers and pinecones as well as the hardware, have the same green antique patina as the lights and every other piece of bronze in the room from electrical outlets to hooks. All elements are tied together with a theme of vegetal or animal form.

Everything summons pomp without ostentation, a sense of refinement and sophistication as stated in the book. Be sure to see this wonderful example of a luxurious bath on your next trip to Paris.

Note: A grateful thanks to Laurence Jansen for her translation of the text.

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